Group exercise classes are very popular at our centres, taught by committed and enthusiastic instructors. At YMCA Hawker in Kingston, there’s a great range to choose from such as Body Pump, Zumba and Tai Chi. The current Tai Chi class is on Tuesday mornings 9am-10am and on fine days takes place under the trees on the field. It’s led by Paul Dunn and uses the Chen Man Ching form. Relaxed, focussed and hugely enjoyable, the class is extremely popular and not just for the health benefits. Here’s what our participants have to say:
Ruth Venn, 65
“I’ve been coming to Tai Chi regularly here. I really enjoy it although I wish I could remember all the moves. It makes a huge difference doing it outside. It’s completely different from Pilates and Yoga, which I also do here at YMCA Hawker.”
Annette Toms, 66
“I’ve been doing this Tai Chi from the start I love it. I would love to encourage other people to come but there is a waiting list as it’s so popular – it would be great if there was another class added to the timetable. I come here two or three times a week and I also work out in the gym quite a lot. I’ve recently had a hip replacement and Tai Chi has been perfect exercise with my recovery. Paul’s style of teaching is perfect, and we’re all beginners which is good.”
Lyndsey Honan, 57
“The thing I love about Tai chi is that it makes me stop for a moment; there’s no case for being in a hurry, it’s all about slowing down and becoming more aware of your energy. I think Paul is a great teacher, he is very encouraging. He really helps you get in touch with the spiritual side of things; it’s real Tai Chi we’re doing! I’m a member here at YMCA Hawker and I also do regular Pilates here.”
Margaret Hambleton, 70
“Paul is very relaxed about our ability and what we can remember. I’ve managed to relax and just do what I can do. I enjoy it because it slows everything down. Tai chi is great for older people as it’s so good for your balance and this helps prevent falls. Every little that can help for older people is good.”
Per Boilel, 58
“I’m recovering from back surgery. About a year ago, I could barely make it up the stairs. I started coming along to YMCA Hawker last autumn, beginning with yoga, and after that I started Tai Chi. There has been tremendous improvement in my back, I’m now able to go to the gym. I’m watching what I’m eating too now, I’m feeling more healthy and relaxed. There should be at least one more class in the week, so we can really learn the movements. It’s also about being able to focus on one thing, it’s great for our overall wellbeing.”
Paul Dunn, 62, Tai Chi instructor
“I’ve been doing Tai Chi for over 30 years, and I’ve been teaching it here at YMCA Hawker for three months. I focus on the wellbeing aspect rather than the martial art. I do explain what each move means and its martial art context, so that people understand what they are doing. If you don’t understand for example what “fist under elbow” is, and what it can do, you’re not going to do it properly.
“There’s a lot of breathing work involved which is good for lowering blood pressure, plus the movements are good for balance – it has been described as ‘moving medication’. There’s also an aspect of mindfulness.
“Learning Tai Chi is a long term investment, working on moving correctly and having the right postures. We’re learning the Chen Man Ching form of Tai Chi, where even the opening move takes a while to perfect, so anyone coming in new as a beginner will pick this up and take something away from the class.
“The great thing about Tai Chi is that you never finish learning it, there’s always something new to discover. It’s so counter cultural where these days everything is so instant, there’s no such thing with Tai Chi, it absorbs you.
“I’m a retired vicar, my church was St Richard’s in Ham. I took early retirement and trained as a gym instructor, then I qualified at Level 3 as a gym instructor for older adults. People come into the gym who are my age and see me and it just makes conversations easier.
“Tai chi is expansive so having the class outside when the weather is nice is great. This place is so embracing of people and relationship which makes teaching here at YMCA Hawker just an absolute delight.”
Looking to get fit, tone up and improve your wellbeing? Fancy trying out Tai Chi? It takes place at YMCA White House, too. Now’s a good time as we’re offering a special deal for summer – just £35 for 30 days. You can try out the gym and exercise classes to get a feel for your local Health and Wellbeing Centre. We’re based at YMCA Hawker in Kingston, YMCA Surbiton, YMCA Wimbledon, YMCA Walthamstow and YMCA White House in Hampton (classes only). You can also try the Gym and Swim package at Hampton Outdoor Pool at a slightly higher price of £40 for 30 days.